Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Ya'ari's Article

Since the article to which I linked is not easily available, I"m placing it here (it's also here). Nothing's changed (except for the relevance of his conclusion).

The Jerusalem Report
19 September 2005
Theory & Practice
by Ehud Ya'ari

A NEW THESIS is spreading through the Arab world, according to which Israel is approaching old age and is battling a long, drawn- out terminal illness. Even if the Jewish state is still healthy enough to be able to suppress the symptoms, the theory goes, there will be no recovery. From being a dynamic society suffused with the ideals of Zionist revival and with the wind of history in its sails, the Israelis have turned into a torn nation, lost, confused and lacking spirit.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashal infused this argument with colorful rhetoric during a "victory speech" in Beirut on August 17, the first day of the evacuation of the settlers of Gush Katif. Israel, he explained, a nation that was constantly committed to territorial expansion and the colonization of newly conquered land from the tip of the Sinai peninsula up to the peaks of Mount Lebanon, has sunk into a shrinking process, divesting itself of the assets it seized and erasing its settlements. According to Mashal, it's a one-way, irreversible trend. "It took time," he declared, "but that is now the direction."

Palestinian history professor Isam Adwan is already doing the calculations for the Islamic Jihad. The Soviet Union, he notes, rose and fell within a single lifetime (1917-1990) and he promises the same fate for Israel. Israel's power reached its peak in 1967 and has been on the wane ever since - a deterioration, Adwan believes, that will lead to its total withering no later than 2022, when the state will be 74 years old, more or less the same age as the Communist empire when it expired. Till then, he says, Israel will exist on vitamin supplements and with the help of its American caregivers.

This prediction elaborates the slogans that Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah often repeats about Israel being like a spider's web, which gets ever thinner the more it spreads, and echoes the prophecies of the late Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who forecast the year of Israel's demise as 2025.The implication is that there is no necessity for the Palestinians and their partners to storm Israel. They needn't go for an all-out, decisive confrontation. All they have to do is carry out a stubborn and grinding campaign of attrition.

A new booklet on the "Strategy of Palestinian Resistance," published by the armed faction known as the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza, under the leadership of Jamal Abu-Samhadana, describes how this kind of warfare requires constant changes in tactics and pace. And that's exactly what the heads of the terror organizations are now saying: There is nothing wrong with a pause in fighting or periods of cease-fire, so long as the dimensions of the struggle and the friction are preserved, with no promise of a solution. "The flames must keep burning, even when they are not scorching," they say.

This line of thought, which is not, of course, followed by all the Arabs, has nevertheless claimed some supposedly moderate personalities, such as Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala), the Palestinian prime minister, who has openly sworn that the Palestinians will never agree to a state in provisional borders, as called for in the U.S.- backed peace plan known as the Road Map, which the Palestinians have ostensibly accepted. As Dr. Mahmud Zahar, the head of Hamas in Gaza, puts it: "Administration - Yes! A state - No!"

No spin master and no amount of words will ever be able to convince our neighbors that the disengagement was not an act of retreat, a sign of weakness, an invitation for more vigorous attack. Whatever we make of the new thesis produced by the problematic environment that surrounds us, it is not only the Israelis who need persuading about the effectiveness of the Gaza withdrawal, but the enemy as well. And in this, Prime Minister Sharon has failed miserably. The conclusion drawn by the other side is that maybe in the short term it will be difficult for them to resume the terror assault, but that is the prescription for the longer run.

Ironically, though, the spreading theory of Israel's "aging" could yet turn out to serve as a tool of restraint on the Palestinian side. After all, if Israel is getting weaker and its epitaph is already written on the wall, then the Arabs' advantage of patience comes into play. All they have to do, they may believe, is to wait; to act as a constant annoyance, to create a kind of siege - but there is no reason to invest valuable resources in an effort to shorten the "Zionist entity's" life. The "resistance" organizations, such as Hamas, could then feel no more obligation than to let nature take its course. And so, paradoxically, the belief the Palestinians are trying to instill in themselves, about their great "victory" in Gaza and the "routing" and "flight" of the Israelis, could yet serve as a justification for a time out.

In the final analysis, what matters is not what they want to believe or how they aspire to present things, but how they will actually behave. The rest is just words.

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